6 Mega Trends Transforming How We Do Business

New trends

PHILIP ELLIS on 16 May, 2016 at 06:05

Here are the 6 key trends currently influencing consumer behaviour, disruption and innovation across every major industry, as identified by panellists at the recent Ogilvy ‘Connect’ conference.

1) The New Consumer

Consumers are freer than ever before to construct their own lifestyles, unencumbered by demographic determinism based on their age, gender or wage. Traditional status symbols such as wealth are no longer relevant; instead, it is considered valuable to be rich in experiences, not possessions.

“Access trumps ownership,” says Olivia Rzepczynski, Global Business Director at Ogilvy London. She believes that the sharing economy can be seen as an indirect consequence of the global financial crisis, driving people to trust their peers more than big businesses or the government. And with city populations growing almost exponentially, it makes sense that consumers are less fussed about hanging onto physical things, instead simply renting what they need when they need it.

This new consumer’s attitudes and expectations are, of course, shaped by disruption and innovation. Which leads us to…

2) The Expectation Economy

“New consumer trends emerge when something new comes along and unlocks a new way of serving a basic human need — and in so doing, creates new customer expectations,” says David Mattin, Head of Trends & Insights at TrendWatching. In a modern context, that “something new” is most often powered by technology. And once that need has been met in one area, those expectations will exist in every other area. For instance, consumer expectations within the telco industry aren’t set by competing carriers, but rather by Apple, Uber and Amazon.

This fear of being usurped by “Uber Syndrome” is the main thing keeping CEOs awake at night. According to a recent global C-suite study conducted by IBM and comprising over 5,000 business leaders in all major industries, preparing for digital invaders has become a top priority.

The key to being disruptor-ready is to have a panoramic perspective, says IBM’s Lisa Ban. The “torchbearers” identified in the study, aka leading innovators who financially outperform their competition, are best placed to take on disruption as they expect competition from other industries, have a greater focus on new markets, invest in “big bet” technologies, decentralise their decision-making, and most importantly, talk to their customers.

Thriving in the expectation comes down to three things. “Be first, be best, or be nowhere,” says Ban.

3) Global Connectivity

The number of connection points worldwide is set to explode over the next few years, says Martin Lange, Global Consulting Partner at OgilvyRED, with another billion people to be connected by 2020. There is research which indicates that increasing connectivity in a country by 10% can boost GDP by as much as 1.4% — surely this can only be a good thing?

But while there is much less of a barrier to smartphone ownership than there was just a few years ago, there is still the frustrating issue of mobile data. 20% of smartphone users consider the cost of connectivity to be a financial burden, and in countries like India and Turkey, only a fraction of smartphone owners actually have a data plan.

This presents both brands and carriers with an opportunity, says Lange, citing the example of LinkNYC, which aims to provide seamless free connectivity across Manhattan in the next three years, through out-of-home transmission units paid for by advertising. Not only would LinkNYC make the city more tourist-friendly, it would also be accessible to every single business at street-level.

Lange believes that providing customers with free access environments will “surprise and delight”, whether that be offering free WiFi in your store, paying for the data it takes to use your app, or rewarding frequent travellers with free roaming. It’s not unlikely, says Rzepczynski, that we’ll see a transition from traditional telco to more of a “connectivity bazaar.” Tesla is already offering free plans with its cars; it’s possible to imagine a future where customers no longer invest in mobile data tariffs at all.

4) New Ways Of Working

Shifting attitudes towards careers are forcing big businesses to rethink how they want to be seen, both by candidates and consumers. Economic uncertainty, the rise of the “anywhere workplace,” and a greater focus on entrepreneurialism and collaboration in recent years means that 78% of adults believe that working multiple jobs will be the new normal in 30 years’ time.

A number of corporates have also seen the benefit of collaborating with external parties to boost innovation, as opposed to just a few years ago, where traditional proprietary methods were preferred. According to IBM’s report, 77% of the C-suite in communications intent to expand their partner network.

Companies are also reorganising themselves in other ways to reflect a broader array of non-traditional lifestyles and attitudes which focus on fairness and fulfillment. For example; 67% of men have stated that they would or already have changed jobs, if it meant a better life for their families. In India, taxi firm OLA provided all of its drivers with free family medical insurance.

Elsewhere, Intel CEO Brian Kzranich addressed the issue of inequality in tech by pledging $300 million to build a more diverse workforce, with the goal of full representation at all levels of the company by 2020. And recently retailer REI opted out of Black Friday, previously its most profitable trading day of the year, instead closing and offering all employees paid leave.

“One powerful way to show consumers that your values align with theirs is to make meaningful, positive changes to your internal culture,” says Mattin.

5) Contextual Omnipresence

“Your consumer doesn’t need you to be everywhere,” says Mattin, “they expect you to use contextual understanding and innovative channels to be there when they need you.”

“Omni-channel” is something that brands and agencies have heard before, and there are still conversations to be had around how physical businesses can compete with the expectations set by online retailers, and vice-versa. But according to L2 Inc.’s Simon Birkenhead, it is also essential to think “omni-device” and “omni-data.” 

There are still huge obstacles when it comes to giving users a seamless transition across devices. Around 58% of consumers in the UK complete a purchase on desktop after browsing on mobile, perhaps due to the fact that 70% of brands still use a browser-based approach. Customers want simpler checkouts, alternative payment options, a full product selection, and clear, well-sized images. The majority of brands need to work on leveraging native OS functionality to enable a frictionless, omni-device experience.

“Data feeds personalisation,” says Birkenhead, citing Beats as a brand which has mastered the art of guided selling tools on its site, based on personal style. Beauty is also a space where brands are offering custom recommendations and targeted content to consumers. But while telco operators in the UK have rudimentary guided selling tools, they are largely squandering the wealth of user information at their disposal; age, gender, roaming and browsing habits, geolocation, device preference, data spend — these all paint a picture of your customer.

6) Beneficial Intelligence

When it comes to new technologies, there are no potential disruptors discussed more than artificial intelligence. But how much of AI will actually matter to business?

Rather than AI for its own sake, Mattin predicts “beneficial intelligence,” i.e. leveraging AI to fulfill basic human needs and making life easier, faster, cheaper and more fun. There are already examples of beneficial intelligence, including the Stockholm train company which uses an AI-powered algorithm to anticipate delay hours before they occur and chatbots offering all kinds of potential for informal interaction and information-sharing with brands.

“It would supercharge your innovation to stop seeing the world, just for a minute, through the lens of technology or technological change,” says Mattin. “How are you going to use these tech trends to bring people things they really want?”

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